What’s the future of sensuality, sexuality and sex in science fiction, society and life?

[ + ] Crystal Sacrophagus, by G-host Lee.

Technology has always played a major role in the enhancement of our human sensual reality. Ripples from the future find voice in the quaking tremors of sex toys, the seismic shifts of mass media, and enduring whispers of unanswered questions.

From the Printing Press to Virtual Reality

Since the beginnings of literature with Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, erotica — sensuality conveyed through words alone — has consistently been among the most profitable genres of fiction, especially among women 1.

From Victorian times, vibrators were often disguised as anything from handy kitchen utensils to mechanical neck massagers. One look at their elongated, bulbous shapes and attachments often betrays their dual-use versatility.

Today’s technology still transforms our lives in ways both subtle and obvious, as remotely sharable teledildonics share news headlines 2 with emergent virtual reality spaces 3. Media, hardware and software will eventually come together to redefine our conception of wetware, literally and figuratively, reaching deeply into all areas of public and private life.

There has never been a monolithic “right” versus “wrong” way to approach human sexuality. Non-Western societies have a multiplicity of words for an assortment of genders 4, 5. Both ancient Greeks and Japanese regarded love between men as the highest form of bonding 6. In ancient English and Asian 7 theatrical traditions, the roles of beautiful women were often played by young male actors.

Theatrical technology continues into the future, pervading everyday life in the realms of makeup, fashion and style. Increasingly sophisticated clothing interweaves synthetic materials with cloud-based programs to track vital signs 8 and fitness, embed our communications devices 9, and even disguise our appearance to protect us against increasingly intrusive surveillance 10.

From Sexual Liberation to Social Dystopia: Meet The Real Enemies of Society

In an increasingly uneven economic landscape, where the rich get richer and everyone else feels pressured by the downward slide into corporate-owned dystopia 11, young women increasingly sell nude photos by the dozen to their online followers. Non-nude pornography proliferates on sites like Twitter and Tumblr, from lingerie selfies of playfully bared nipples and shapely rear ends to blogs full of blatantly erotic “fitspo” models and yoga posers. Influence cultivated via homespun “authentic” Youtube videos can lead to careers fueled by invasive behavioural profiling, innocently re-cast as “Internet advertising” 12. This is a technology-driven form of “soft” entrepreneurial sexwork evolving from the self-exposure demanded by Silicon Valley’s social media companies. Privacy policies dictated from above in dense legalese are minimally skimmed by attention-seeking users who gladly thumb their noses at the more prudish sensibilities of generations past.

There are harsh downsides and real dangers in this new world of sensuality, sexuality and sex in society. Shaming campaigns, revenge porn, and Internet stalking have reached epidemic levels. Amoral corporate entities like Facebook restructure our ideas about privacy to nudge us into oversharing while packaging and selling our digital identities — drunk tweets, lonely late-night nudes and all — to anyone who will buy them 13. Our immediate present becomes a long-tail past that, once uploaded and shared, can haunt us long after an initial indiscretion, perhaps for a lifetime. The entirety of Gamergate was based on attempts to shame and harass indie game developer Zoe Quinn into committing suicide, partly based on recirculation of nudes that were published nearly a decade prior. What people do consensually in private is never the business of a stranger, much less a pack of voyeuristic keyboard warriors hellbent on false “madonna versus whore” moral-purity witchhunts. Society loses sight of basic morality at its peril, and this is a peril that has quickly become an existential threat.

Privacy and the right to be forgotten, left alone or simply able to control access to non-public data has never been more important. The twenty-first century heralds an age where nation-states increasingly wage information warfare campaigns in tandem with kinetic battlefield tactics. Similar to our understanding of cyberwar, the average person remains woefully unprepared for the new era of misinformation, disinformation and malicious identity distortion that already envelopes and threatens the world’s democracies 14. We are now all potentially social media superstars — or at least stars to our few followers. With stardom’s intense fascination comes the perils of “reputation management”: a single cheeky semi-nude photo, cellphone “sextape” video or inebriated sexy tweet can be intentionally and virally misconstrued to slander a person’s entire identity. Technological capabilities have raced far ahead of the average person’s awareness of their responsibility to check facts and seek context, instead of jumping to unfounded conclusions based on assumptions and prejudice. Our hunger for entertainment often outpaces our willingness to accept the diversity of human sexual expression as technology spreads across the globe at an ever-increasing rate of acceleration.

The overused and irresistibly true William Gibson quote applies here, paraphrased, as everywhere else: the future (of human sexuality) is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Gibson wasn’t talking about sex 15 but in some ways, sex is now just another aspect of cyberpunk, though Gibson’s original vision (and sexuality itself) is so much more than that.

Trans, human: Redefining nature, shifting social norms, Hollywood and porn

Glacial as it may sometimes feel, social norms are quietly changing. Rap stars now brag about not only fast cars and money, but also an increasing diversity of sexual orientations and inclinations. Pop stars continually push new boundaries as the glistening baton of sexual freedom passes from Madonna to Lady Gaga to Miley Cyrus, Halsey and other mass-media brand names. Androgyny and non-binary gender presentation has become cool with genderfluid personalities like Ruby Rose. Movie stars are increasingly comfortable with identifying as gay, from action heroine Michelle Rodriguez of Fast & Furious and Resident Evil fame, to the surprising insights brought by a refreshingly mature Lindsay Lohan. Transgender actresses and directors like Laverne Cox and the legendary Wachowski sisters, respectively, are powerfully visible role models for young trans women. Many people across the gender spectrum in the Hollywood spotlight are openly LGBT now, and it no longer necessarily consumes the gravitational centre of their public identity.

Homosexuality, bisexuality and pansexuality are as “natural” as any other sexuality; there are hundreds of species whose members engage in non-heterosexual behaviour 16. Human beings simply extend such natural inclinations into the symbolic and technological realms, and bring our intimately imagined desires to life. The internetworked spread of ideas clarifies what has been true for as long as species Homo sapiens sapiens has existed on this planet.

In the fashion world, reality stars like Carmen Carrera and high-fashion models like Andreja Pejić have built careers defying, challenging and changing gender and beauty norms. In January of 2017, model Hanne Gaby Odiele came out as intersex in a bid to raise awareness and help others who are born the same way 17.

Even pornography itself is changing. What used to be considered “gay” among cisgender heterosexual men is now becoming mainstream when a man and a woman do it together on camera. Transgender model Ines Rau graced the centrefold of the November/December 2017 issue of Playboy 18. Playboy is still the world’s most famous and well-respected “lad mag”, renowned equally for its beautiful models and for its high-quality in-depth journalism.
Above all, Playboy and Hollywood encompass massive business empires. They only hire, print and promote what sells to mainstream audiences. The fact that LGBT and non-binary actresses, directors and models (and yes, even porn stars) are increasingly visible means that society is not only becoming “tolerant”, but more accepting of expressive sexual diversity.

Returning to technology, cosmetic surgery merges with transhumanism as more people experiment with body modification. Techniques become more refined, strategic and precise, and will even become even moreso as robotic surgeons take over the scalpel from their human forebears. The line between “extreme” fashion, body modification, transhumanism and posthumanism blurs as augmentations combine style and function. Advancements like augmented reality built into our eyes will increasingly be adapted for ornamental and recreational purposes. First, essential medical devices like pacemakers found their way onto computer networks. Now, consider the increasing prevalence of sex toys that are already being connected via Wi-Fi; as technology begins to enter and take more permanent places inside our bodies, what’s next?

Questions for the future of sex and society

Gender reassignment surgery is real. How long until we have functioning implantable wombs?

In what ways will our perspective rebalance after the realisation that sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, and genitalia aren’t necessarily hardwired together?

How will our attitudes change as robots learn to accompany us and fulfill even our most taboo fantasies?

What happens when our technology-enhanced bodies and brains — meshed into a next-generation Internet of Things, Minds and People — inevitably get hacked 19? How will we protect ourselves from malicious software and memetic viruses that contain transmissions of a sexual kind (in a sense, the newest form of “social disease”, or more accurately, social-networking disease that contains a sexual payload)?

These are questions to be pondered, explored and played with here in this subproject of AltSciFi. The same imaginations that have constructed erotic narratives for millennia can anticipate unseen new directions before they become our collective reality over the coming decades.

Science fiction has always been a place to look toward possible futures. As you’ve read in this overview, society is changing faster and in more ways than most people are consciously aware, but we can all feel it. Sensuality, sexuality and sex offer a window into an aspect of ourselves that few people explicitly consider, but is evolving nonetheless. The implications of our relationship to our bodies and minds as expressed in sexual thoughts, desires, behaviours and technologies has always been intrinsic to our existence as human beings. The sooner we accept who and what we are, the sooner we move to a better future for all.

Welcome to AltSciFi ピンク. ;)

Join us. Explore. Enjoy. Above all, be safe and protect your privacy.

P.S. The AltSciFi project is for adults over the age of eighteen only. We do not knowingly include or endorse any imagery or other content depicting the sexual behaviour of anyone under the age of eighteen. AltSciFi is for consenting adults, by consenting adults. Any material depicting nonconsensual sex may be accompanied by a disclaimer that such fantasies are common (specifically among women) and thus constitute a grey area, up to a certain point. Child sexuality and rape are never acceptable topics for adult entertainment — including in anime — and are banned from use by anyone associated with AltSciFi. Aside from that, as long as it’s consensual, non-scatological and enjoyed by adults only, our future-focused approach will gladly consider all possibilities. This is the future, after all, and in science fiction, everything is possible.

Learn More

1. Stewart, Thomas. (31 Jan 2014). Which 5 Book Genres Make The Most Money? Retrieved from https://www.therichest.com/rich-list/which-5-book-genres-make-the-most-money/.

2. Cox, Joseph. (7 Aug 2017). We Anonymously Controlled a Dildo Through the Tor Network. Retrieved from https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/wjnwgb/we-anonymously-controlled-a-dildo-through-the-tor-network.

3. Tsukayama, Hayley. (11 Oct 2017). Facebook announces a wireless $200 virtual-reality headset. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/11/facebook-announces-a-wireless-200-virtual-reality-headset/.

4. Medwed, Robbie. (01 Jun 2015). More Than Just Male and Female: The Six Genders in Classical Judaism. Retrieved from http://www.sojourngsd.org/blog/sixgenders.

5. Guy-Ryan, Jessie. (18 Jun 2016). In Indonesia, Non-Binary Gender is a Centuries-Old Idea. Retrieved from https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/in-indonesia-nonbinary-gender-is-a-centuriesold-idea.

6. History of Same-Sex Samurai Love in Edo Japan. (1 May 2017). Retrieved from https://allabout-japan.com/en/article/5187/.

7. Kabuki. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/Kabuki.

8. Giles, Chris. (24 Oct 2017). The biomedical smart jacket that diagnoses pneumonia using Bluetooth. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/24/africa/biomedical-jacket-uganda-africa-tech-rising/index.html.

9. HAL 90210. (26 Sep 2017). Jacquard: Google and Levi’s ‘smart jacket’ that you can only wash 10 times. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/26/jacquard-google-levis-smart-jacket-denim.

10. Schneier, Bruce. (14 Jan 2013). Anti-Surveillance Clothing. Retrieved from https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/01/anti-surveillan_1.html.

11. Metcalf, Stephen. (18 Aug 2017). Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world . Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/aug/18/neoliberalism-the-idea-that-changed-the-world.

12. Eckersley, Peter. (21 Sep 2009). How Online Tracking Companies Know Most of What You Do Online (and What Social Networks Are Doing to Help Them). Retrieved from https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/09/online-trackers-and-social-networks.

13. Hachman, Mark. (1 Oct 2015). The price of free: how Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google sell you to advertisers. Retrieved from https://www.pcworld.com/article/2986988/privacy/the-price-of-free-how-apple-facebook-microsoft-and-google-sell-you-to-advertisers.html.

14. Constine, Josh. (31 Oct 2017). Congress grills Facebook, Twitter, Google on shells hiding election meddlers. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/31/election-inference-shell-companies/.

15. Kennedy, Pagan. (13 Jan 2012). William Gibson’s Future Is Now. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/books/review/distrust-that-particular-flavor-by-william-gibson-book-review.html.

16. Hogenboom, Melissa. (6 Feb 2015). Are there any homosexual animals? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals

17. Lindsay, Kathryn. (Jan 2017). This Model Just Revealed She Is Intersex. Retrieved from http://www.refinery29.com/2017/01/137416/hanne-gaby-odiele-intersex

18. Quinn, Dave. (19 Oct 2017). French Model Ines Rau Makes History as Playboy’s First Transgender Playmate. Retrieved from http://people.com/bodies/ines-rau-makes-history-as-playboys-first-transgender-playmate/.

19. Dalton, Andrew. (03 Apr 17). This connected vibrator’s camera is disturbingly easy to hack. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2017/04/03/siime-connected-vibrator-camera-wifi-hack/

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Dystopia and Donald Trump: How Many New Adolf Hitler Clones Lurk in the Future of Realistic Science Fiction?

You’ve set about penning your polemical dystopian Y.A. masterpiece set in alt-2017. The main protagonist is probably a woman, but could also be a man. She may be transgender or a genetic female. She is probably Latina, but could be Black, Asian or biracial.

The head villain, cast as the ideological opposite of the main protagonist, is a thoroughly original, fictional monstrosity: an egomaniacal tyrant whose skin is tinted radioactive orange and hair is a garish fake yellow, accompanied by his gorgeously dim-witted mail-order bride. Lesser villains include a vice president who tacitly supports the systematic, sadistic psychological torture of LGBT children ¹, and a trashy motormouthed ex-beauty queen henchwoman with extensive familial reality TV credentials.

Beware Clichés and Caricatures

There’s only one problem with the evil characters sketched above: despite an element of truth, they’re obvious caricatures. Caricatures can be amusing at first, but their apparent lack of depth can quickly wear thin.

It may be tempting to imitate Hollywood with a high-concept plot along the lines of “The Future Versus Adolf Hitler” ² or “Billionaire President Versus The People”.

Donald Trump may be a hyper-narcissistic, cocaine-addicted buffoon, but he’s nothing next to Adolf Hitler. Hitler was politically smarter and more popular with the German people, among other key distinctions.

Here’s a bit of basic research on historical differences between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Trump, to help you avoid a few pitfalls from the start in writing your next story.

Trump Has the Sniffles — Hitler Was The Real High-Roller

To start, Hitler was more creative in his choice of recreational drugs. By the end of World War II, Hitler injected a daily stream of hardcore pharmaceuticals administered by his faithful doctor, Theodor Morell³:

– Pervitin (methamphetamine)
– Eukodal (oxycodone)
– high grade cocaine

…among others.

Although Donald Trump may simply have a persistently runny nose, his alleged cocaine habit (and unhinged 3 a.m. Twitter diatribe tendency ) pales by the sight of Hitler’s needle-punctured, collapsing veins and erratic junkie-in-withdrawals behavior during his last days in the Führerbunker.

Trump Lost the Popularity Contest, Hitler Won The Reality Show

Adolf Hitler had far more popular support at the start of his reign in 1934 than Donald Trump has in 2016. Ironically, Hitler’s popularity grew more to the level of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin than Trump. It’s also noteworthy that many Germans seemed to support Hitler himself more than the Nazi party ¹⁴, whereas the Republican Party in general is hated far less than Donald Trump.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton indisputably won the popular vote ¹⁵ to become 45th president of the United States of America.

Trump lost the popular vote, instead obtaining the position of president through the electoral college. In other words, Donald Trump is a failed populist before his time in office even begins. Trump may inspire Hitler-level fawning adoration in some of his supporters, but in no way can he legitimately claim to be the American people’s president.

Is the 2017 American Economy Comparable to Hitler’s Germany?

The socioeconomic environment that precipitated Hitler’s rise was far more dire than modern-day America . In 1933, the German people were suffering catastrophically due to:

– crippling financial reparations demanded by the treaty of Versailles after World War I ;

– the aftermath of the Great Depression of 1929 and disastrous efforts by a pre-Hitler government to reverse the damage.

In July 1930 Chancellor Brüning cut government expenditure, wages and unemployment pay – the worst thing to do during a depression.

How does that set of events compare to the modern day and possible future?

In 2016, the efforts of President Obama’s government — to repair the damage done during President Bush’s Great Recession of 2007 — have failed to completely restore the economy . This is why many people below retirement age feel trapped in financial uncertainty.

American wages are still nearly stagnant (this is a corporate capitalist problem, not a presidential problem). Although unemployment has fallen, personal debt is rising and employment increasingly centers on low-wage service industry jobs ¹⁰.

Lower-wage industries accounted for 22% of recession job losses, but are responsible for 44% of the hiring in the recovery.

High-wage jobs accounted for 41% of job losses but have only grown 30% since the recession, and mid-wage jobs made up 37% of job losses but only 26% of recent employment growth. That means there are almost two million fewer high- and mid-wage jobs than there were before the 2008 collapse, according to the report.

The economic situation in the United States circa 2017 isn’t anywhere near that of 1934 Germany. The Great Recession of 2008 was caused by financial deregulation rather than world war. Deregulation enabled lenders to offer housing loans to those who couldn’t afford them (“subprime” loans ¹¹). Those loans were reconstituted into “good” financial instruments that were actually junk (“securitization”), leading to a housing bubble that soon popped and destroyed the American economy ¹²:

After the Asian financial crisis in 1997, investors were looking for safe havens to park their money. What they wanted were AAA-rated bonds. What they got were mortgage-backed securities that were rated AAA but turned out to be junk. As we all now know—but most of us didn’t know at the time—Wall Street firms in the early 2000s began slicing and dicing and then reassembling mortgage debt into more and more exotic and risky mortgage-backed securities in ways that made them look risk-free.

Now imagine what might happen during the presidency of a real estate mogul billionaire — who was cheering for the housing crisis so that he could make easy money¹³?

“I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy,” Trump said in a 2006 audiobook from Trump University, answering a question about “gloomy predictions that the real estate market is heading for a spectacular crash.”

“If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money,” Trump said in the 2006 audio book, “How to Build a Fortune.”

The United States has already had a “pro-business” president (George W. Bush) whose deregulatory policies led directly to a massive recession that hasn’t ended yet. Now the U.S. has somehow elected a real estate speculator who cheered for the failure of the American housing market.

In relation to the economy, Trump isn’t Hitler. Trump is an opportunistic vulture asked to safeguard and nurture America’s already-ailing fiscal health. Still, the U.S. isn’t in the realm of 1934 Germany yet. If you want to write a dystopian plotline, aim for the socioeconomic landscape post-2020, after the new despot has grabbed the American consumer by the pocketbook and had his way with her.

War-Mongers at the Gates of Power?

The German people largely approved of Hitler’s use of war to annex territory. Indeed, much of the German peoples’ support for Hitler arose because of his regime’s military success ¹⁴.

After the abject failure ¹⁶ of George W. Bush’s oil-seeking adventurism in Iraq ¹⁷ based on lies — no, the lesser sin of “misinformation” — about “weapons of mass destruction” ¹⁸, most Americans abhor the idea of prolonged ground war ¹⁹.

The current worldwide drone and special operations deployments began precisely because “boots on the ground” are extremely unpopular in the prevailing American sentiment. Trump simply cannot wage war wholesale while waving a United States flag and crowing on about “making America great again”, the way that Adolf Hitler did for Germany in the years leading up to Word War II. George W. Bush already tried that game with disastrous results that led directly to the rise of ISIS. In the current climate, the American people would never commit long-term support to flattening Iran or further maiming the already-crippled North Korea.

If your sci-fi plot requires large-scale global war, focus on the details of a “what if…” scenario that renders conflict as inevitable — not as the unilateral decision of Dictator Trump. Of course, that’s quite likely what Trump himself would do.

Mass Surveillance

We find our hero seeking truth. She’s skulking around the city, smoothly avoiding security cameras and narrowly escaping capture by the Gestapo of the Future. And of course she’s some kind of hacker, because hackers are cool and computers are magical MacGuffins that can do anything.

How close could Trump’s surveillance machine match that of Adolf Hitler ²⁰?

Unfortunately, from Donald Rumsfeld to President Obama, civil liberties and information privacy have been eroded continuously. ²¹

Guantanamo Bay is still operational. Drone wars are ongoing. Special operators slit throats of third-world adversaries in the dark. FBI informants spy on mosques and activists. The NSA is vast and practically unaccountable. Trump advocates increased deportations and endorses torture far beyond waterboarding.

The only thing preventing President Obama from ruling with an iron fist was the President himself. Now Americans have Trump, who promises no similar restraint.

In terms of surveillance, Trump certainly has the tools to be a dream in the remotest fantasies of Hitler. Your best fodder for realistic near-future science fiction may begin here — just be sure to get the details right. People need ongoing reminders that the extent of what’s possible is just as mind-bending as anything imagined by Philip K. Dick.

Near-Future Civil Strife

A great backdrop for dystopian fiction is the image of protestors marching in the streets, throwing Molotov cocktails at robotically faceless oppressors and demanding the end of an evil regime.

Hitler’s platform, as you’ve read above, pertained to the outcome of World War I and the Great Depression.

Today’s populism tends to focus on jobs, but often leaves out important details. Those details can help your story feel more real.

Who took all the jobs? Was it “Obama”, the machines or “the Mexicans”?

The Second Machine Age

President Obama didn’t “steal” American jobs that Trump can magnanimously “give back” to the people ²². Manufacturing jobs are gone due to globalisation ²³ and the automation of factories ²⁴. Working-class occupational categories will continue to disappear. None of this has anything to do with who happens to be president of the United States of America.

Either the U.S. keeps up with global trends — that result in increased productivity and skyrocketing income inequality, the end of social mobility, etc. — or the entire national economy will quickly fall behind as business moves overseas.

Anyone who has graduated beyond a high-school mentality knows that it would be ludicrous to build an impossibly giant wall to keep out the imaginary hordes of Mexican rapists and job-stealing taco vendors. The first question for working-class people is “who’s to blame?

“If you’re under economic stress and you can’t provide for your family, the easiest answer is to find someone to blame,” said Dr. Griffith. “Mexicans, illegal immigrants, Obama.” ²³

The sad part about those who voted for Trump is that many of them are legitimately afraid that their simple way of life is under threat. It’s true: capitalism sees labor as a cost and strives to eliminate it whenever possible. ²⁵

“You don’t have to train machines,” Mr. Mishek observes.

“If you’re doing something that can be written down in a programmatic, algorithmic manner, you’re going to be substituted for quickly,” said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard.

That’s the corporate capitalist way. That doctrine has usurped and supplanted any regard for workers that existed before the rise of Walmart, Starbucks, Google, Amazon, Apple and Uber. Today’s middle class is sliding to become working class; the working class faces a descent into poverty. Those who are poor face debt and homelessness. The only thing more amazing than the phenomenon itself is that those a step higher on the ladder sneer at the survivors one step below, thereby making room for themselves to fall and be spat upon when their turn comes. Positive thinking is little more than a thinly veiled prayer that misfortune will “never happen to me”, enacted by controlling an uncertain universe through thought alone. That way, if you fail, it’s all your fault. Society is for winners, and the lower 99% are on their own.

Dystopia is a great choice for fiction writing in terms of realism right now. The main challenge is to tell people — especially young people — fresh stories that we aren’t already living day-to-day.

Blame the Mexicans…?

Working-class Trump supporters express legitimate concerns about their economic status and social well-being. The only part they consistently get wrong is the idea that their enemies are other working-class people who happen to have a different skin color or country of origin. Even if you could get rid of the Mexicans, have police murder all the working-age black men and women, and build empty factories devoid of all automation, the rest of the world (translation: China ²⁶) will simply pick up the slack. To fight globalisation by using racial and gendered hatred as an excuse for xenophobic protectionism/isolationism will only hasten the inevitable.

The socioeconomic landscape is changing. Within a generation, the blatant racism and sexism of Donald Trump will become a punchline about the backward ways of a long-gone era in the United States.

After Hitler, After Trump

When you write your dystopian tour de force, have a laugh by brainstorming with a fictional graphic that Trump tried in vain to pass off as fact, published by the nonexistent “San Francisco Crime Statistics Bureau.” ²⁷ Donald Trump has done a brilliant job of dumbing-down his own public persona in order to the gain the favor of frightened, vulnerable, gullible, racist voters.

When Trump inevitably fails to materialize new working-class jobs and “make America great again”, the national temperament will probably swing just as extremely to the left in 2020 as it did to the right four years prior. The country will still exist (provided humanity avoids Armageddon). Will the United States adapt to the world’s tempo or become increasingly obsolete? This is a question of trajectory that the American electoral college may have already set in motion on November 9th, 2016.

Donald J. Trump may be an unnaturally orange-faced buffoon but, similar to Adolf Hitler, he can also be quite shrewd, socially if not politically. Make sure that your Trump-based characters don’t fall too far into caricature, as tempting as the many opportunities certainly are.

Now you have a set of real-life facts to guide the construction of your Trump/Hitler fiction stories for the next four years of dystopian oddity on Spaceship Earth. Hopefully a few of those hyper-realistic Y.A. yarns have happy endings, or at the very least, open-ended and ambiguous ones.

P.S. You could also take a totally different approach, and imagine a world in which Bernie Sanders won the presidency. Until his successor emerges in 2020, you’ll have to divine that scenario for yourself. Enjoy. ;)

Learn More

1. Newsom, Gavin. (20 Jul 2016). Mike Pence—Conversion Therapy True Believer—Adds More Hate to Donald Trump’s GOP Fire. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/20/mike-pence-conversion-therapy-true-believes-up-the-hate-for-donald-trump-s-gop.html.

2. Sandberg, David. (2015 May 28). KUNG FURY Official Movie [HD]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS5P_LAqiVg.

3. Cooke, Rachel. (2016 Sep 25). High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/25/blitzed-norman-ohler-adolf-hitler-nazi-drug-abuse-interview.

4. Diamond, Jeremy. (1 Oct 2016). Donald Trump quintuples down. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/30/politics/trump-overnight-media-tweets/index.html.

5. Parfitt, Tom. (27 Nov 2014). Seven reasons to explain Vladimir Putin’s popularity cult. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/11257362/Seven-reasons-to-explain-Vladimir-Putins-popularity-cult.html.

6. Hitler’s rise to power. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/mwh/germany/hitlerpowerrev_print.shtml.

7. Lang, Olivia. (2 Oct 2010). Why has Germany taken so long to pay off its WWI debt? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11442892.

8. Long, Heather. (6 Feb 2016). Why doesn’t 4.9% unemployment feel great? Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/06/news/economy/obama-us-jobs/index.html.

9. Frizell, Sam. (19 Feb 2014). Americans Are Taking on Debt at Scary High Rates. Retrieved from http://time.com/8740/federal-reserve-debt-bankrate-consumers-credit-card/.

10. Alter, Charlotte. (28 Apr 2014). Report: Low-Pay Jobs Replace High-Pay Jobs Since Recession. Retrieved from http://time.com/79061/report-low-pay-jobs-replace-high-pay-jobs-since-recession/.

11. Grossman, Richard S. (14 Oct 2013). Greed destroyed us all: George W. Bush and the real story of the Great Recession. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2013/10/14/greed_destroyed_us_all_george_w_bush_and_the_real_story_of_the_great_recession/.

12. Boushey, Heather. (21 May 2014). It Wasn’t Household Debt That Caused the Great Recession. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/house-of-debt/371282/.

13. Diamond, Jeremy. (20 May 2016). Donald Trump in 2006: I ‘sort of hope’ real estate market tanks. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/19/politics/donald-trump-2006-hopes-real-estate-market-crashes/.

14. Kershaw, Ian. (30 Jan 2008). How Hitler Won Over the German People. Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-fuehrer-myth-how-hitler-won-over-the-german-people-a-531909.html.

15. 12 Nov 2016. Live Presidential Forecast. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/elections/forecast/president.

16. Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus. (23 Jun 2014). Most Americans say Iraq war wasn’t worth the costs: Poll. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-say-iraq-war-wasnt-worth-the-costs-poll/.

17. Sisi Wei, Jeremy Bowers and Wilson Andrews. 4486 U.S. service members have died in Iraq. Retrieved from http://apps.washingtonpost.com/national/fallen/theaters/iraq/.

18. Schwarz, Jon. (10 Apr 2015). Twelve Years Later, US Media Still Can’t Get Iraqi WMD Story Right. Retrieved from https://theintercept.com/2015/04/10/twelve-years-later-u-s-media-still-cant-get-iraqi-wmd-story-right/.

19. Drake, Bruce. (12 Jun 2014). More Americans say U.S. failed to achieve its goals in Iraq. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/12/more-americans-say-us-failed-to-achieve-its-goals-in-iraq/.

20. Greenslade, Roy. (4 Dec 2013). How Hitler suspended the right to mail and telephone privacy. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2013/dec/04/surveillance-adolf-hitler.

21. Alex Emmons. (11 Nov 2016). Commander-In-Chief Donald Trump Will Have Terrifying Powers. Thanks, Obama. Retrieved from https://theintercept.com/2016/11/11/commander-in-chief-donald-trump-will-have-terrifying-powers-thanks-obama/.

22. Diamond, Jeremy. (28 Jun 2016). Trump slams globalization, promises to upend economic status quo. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/28/politics/donald-trump-speech-pennsylvania-economy/index.html.

23. Nelson D. Schwartz and Quoctrung Bui. (25 Apr 2016). Where Jobs Are Squeezed by Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/26/business/economy/where-jobs-are-squeezed-by-chinese-trade-voters-seek-extremes.html.

24. Rotman, David. (12 Jun 2013). How Technology Is Destroying Jobs. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/.

25. Rampell, Catherine. (9 Jun 2011). Companies Spend on Equipment, Not Workers. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/business/10capital.html.

26. Smith, Noah. (26 Jan 2016). Free Trade With China Wasn’t Such a Great Idea for the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-01-26/free-trade-with-china-wasn-t-such-a-great-idea.

27. Farley, Robert. (23 Nov 2015). Trump Retweets Bogus Crime Graphic. Retrieved from http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-retweets-bogus-crime-graphic/.

Science Fiction as the Intersection of Technology, Sex and Art

Where does AltSciFi come from? Who are we? What are we about?

These questions are continually refined as the composition of our membership changes over time.

AltSciFi presently operates on three axes:

Tech, art, and sex.

* The term “sexies” is a neologism. It means: people of a non-conforming sexual orientation, including gay, lesbian, and alternative lifestyle practitioners. Consensual sex is an interpersonally creative act between one, two or more people, not bound by arbitrary social codes, mores, imperatives or opprobrium. Asexual, transhuman and posthuman identities that appreciate human sexuality are also welcome here.

1. Techies who love art and sex;
2. Artsies who love tech and sex;
3. Sexies* who love tech and art.

Art-loving techies are our primary audience, although only because they are most intimately connected to technology. Who would love sci-fi more than people who are creating the future?

Cryptography and information/network security are the two aspects of tech that will have the greatest basic impact on our global civilization in decades to come. Hence, we focus there as a foundation for building plausible, science-based “hard sci-fi” ideas. The freedom of the individual and our collective survival depend on the balance of secrecy, privacy, and publicly accessible information.

The Race and Politics of AltSciFi

We are, however, apolitical and non-racial.

“But that’s impossible!”, you might say. “We all have a race, and any citizen lives in a political environment. We all have politics of some kind; if you pay taxes to a central government, you’re supporting its political system, too.”

Here’s what apolitical and non-racial means in this context:

Politics are essentially a form of theater for the average citizen. Real politics consists of evaluating issues, making up your own mind, and voting for candidates who align with your perspective. All the bluster and arguments that take place online are little more than gossip for those who are bored and enjoy wasting time with endless debates.

Race is a communally believed fiction; there is no scientific basis for dividing humans into “races”. Opinions about race tend to change glacially, in tandem with socially acceptable beliefs about art, technology and sex (i.e. culture). Simply pointing out the fictional nature of race is enough. For our purposes, the rest is little more than political chatter that often encodes and hides socioeconomic influences and biases.

Gender is a fiction as well; it is a set of acculturated behaviors, not biological facts. The existence of transgender and transsexual people further provides evidence for this truth. Gender is considered (by some) to be more fluid than race, hence it offers a glimpse into the malleable nature of human identity.

Race may one day be recognized as changeable (yet for some people, intrinsic) as gender. For now, science fiction can address both race and gender directly or through metaphors of the “alien” and the “Other” — creatures who are foreign, yet nonetheless essentially human.

Both Human and Alien: Beauty and Sex in Science Fiction

Technology and art are obvious, but why is sex so important in the AltSciFi formulation of sci-fi?

Sex matters because it is at once fundamental to our existence as animals, and at the same time the source of endless doubts and controversies. A naive and curious space alien might ask: What makes a man? What makes a woman? Is it not strange that in some cultures, women jealously guard their breasts as if nipples have magical powers? Isn’t it fascinating that in some parts of the world, there are more than two recognized genders? At a time when genetically perfect babies can be born in laboratories, how does sex, gender and sexuality change? What happens when a person born with one set of genitalia can decide to undergo hormonal treatments and gender reassignment surgery?

Deviancy, Fantasy and Consensuality

It’s also worthy of note that most people have engaged in, or at least fantasized about, sexual activities that they dare not share with others for fear of shame or ostracism. Fictional characters and scenarios — not only in romance novels or erotic stories — provide an ideal medium to explore such issues in creative ways.

All consensual sex is “normal” as far as all involved parties agree that their activities are based on shared desires. Perversion begins in minds that would censor the prerogative of others to safely enjoy themselves in a private space. Fiction that points up such a dissonance between (morally) right and (socially) “proper” uncovers a diverse menu of sci-fi story possibilities.

Beauty, Style, Biology and Technology

What is beauty in a world of fluid sexual and gender identity?

These are all questions that are ripe for a genre like science fiction to play with and expand upon. Sexuality obsesses, repulses, delights and drives us. Technology of various kinds is opening up avenues for personal beauty, fashion, style and expression in ways that were both socially and physiologically unheard of only a few decades ago. Imagining possible and plausible futures requires a comprehensive vision that includes gender, sex and sexuality.

You might say that AltSciFi exists at the heart of a Venn diagram of sorts: tech, art, and sex.

It’s a great place to be, and offers a uniquely open perspective to the varieties of human experience. If we can see even a few years into one of many futures, we may then able to shine a beam or two back onto who we are right now, and who we want to be. Insight into ourselves, after all, is what real science fiction is all about.

Clickbait Journalism, Gender in Video Games, and a New Direction for Independent Science Fiction in All Media

Rest assured: the topic of this article is decidedly not “ethics in gamer journalism.” The topic here may seem to center on video games when it is, quite frankly, all about the money.

The Backlash Was Only The Beginning

On September 1st, 2015, technologist Brianna Wu teamed with writer Ellen McGrody to write a factually inaccurate, morally wrong-headed article.

The article was factually incorrect for reasons elaborated in Part One of this two-part series.

It also twisted a gender rights issue — transgender representation in videogames.
The effect was to stir empty controversy, generating cheap click-bait for their host, themarysue.com.

Predictably, a strong backlash arose among many readers who voiced their disgust both on themarysue.com website and on Twitter.

That was only the beginning, however. Brianna Wu further impugned her own credibility, responding to criticism by tweeting personal attacks against her detractors rather than addressing the factual inaccuracies in her article:

“The extreme anger and aggressive denial of my piece about the evidence #Samus is transgender shows how much transphobia is in gamer culture.”

In some cases, it’s not denial. It’s that the article was incorrect and wrong. Cherrypicking convenient facts and ignoring disconfirming evidence has nothing to do with “gamer culture”, and everything do to with manipulation of data to serve an agenda. Note also how all who disagree are automatically labeled as “extreme”, “angry”, or “aggressive”, and as denying some kind of nonexistent “truth” that exists only in Brianna Wu’s mind.

“Why does this upset people so much? Well, that answer is simple. You hate transgender people, and can’t imagine a gaming icon as one.”

No, the answer is different, yet equally simple: some people dislike being manipulated for the sake of pseudo-civil rights clickbait. There are real issues to write about in the gender rights arena. Why waste time digging up twenty year-old quotes from video games and twisting them for the sake of a bogus feel-good essay?

The facts compiled in Part One of this series were the result of a less than twenty-minute investigation via search engine DuckDuckGo.

“I need you to understand, your unconscious bias against transgender people is killing them. It killed my friend Evelyn, who was only 19.”

A shoddy article about a videogame character has nothing to do with the unfortunate death of anyone’s real-life friends. Aside from the ludicrous assertion that “unconscious biases” can kill people, claiming such deadly “bias” on the part of people you’ve never met is ridiculous mass armchair psychoanalysis-at-a-distance.

“I’m going to make all the difference I can, while I can. Sadly, enduring endless barrage of personal attacks is part of changing the world.”

The unmistakably hubris-riddled, self-obsessive grandiosity of this tweet says more than any other one could have done on its own.

Question: How did such a shoddy, manipulative article end up published in the first place?
Answer: Because no one was paying for anything better.

This two-part series of AltSciFi articles is not a “hit piece” or attempt at character assassination against Brianna Wu or Ellen McGrody.

In spite of their perhaps-virtuous motives, Wu and McGrody wrote and promoted an article whose premise was misleading and facts were badly cherrypicked. The ultimate responsibility for such “clickbait journalism”, however, rests entirely on the shoulders of publications that give space to such poorly chosen prose.

Regardless of the stated subject or domain, any website powered by advertising is also driven by baiting users to click on advertisements. This inevitably leads down the bottomless sewer drain of searching for “high-concept” articles that will grab random readers by the eyeballs and keep them looking for long enough to follow an ad.

Mechanics of the “Free” Clickbait Internet Economy

The economics of clickbaiting are calculated by the thousands: thousands of people need to view a click-driven website before an appreciable number will “convert” into buyers.

What does this mean?

It means that if a site is driven by clicks, it’s also essentially and inevitably the Web version of a trashy tabloid magazine. The fundamental business model is exactly the same. A tabloid strives to shock with lurid headlines and scandalous stories; advertising-driven websites are financially sustained by the same set of economic pressures. At no point in time is quality the top priority.

At worst, advertisers and websites (and even ISPs) collect your personal browsing data, build behavioral profiles of users, and sell it to the highest bidder.

Hence, we end up with fake flag-waving by writers like Wu and McGrody — in this case, spinning a twenty-year-old transphobic comment into a false “victory” for transgender gamers. Even if the article isn’t worth the pixels it’s printed on, a high viewer count makes it a “winner”.

Wu and McGrody may not have set out to manipulate the emotions and hopes of their audience. Their intentions may have been pure. The publication for which they wrote, however, did nothing to prevent their tabloid-worthy article from being printed on its pages. Everyone involved simply had too much to gain and too little to lose.

How can clickbait journalism and blatantly exploitative gender-baiting be prevented?

If a publication’s readers aren’t financially invested in the works produced, there is no way to measure the value of those works aside from “more, more and more”. More pageviews, more clicks, more ads.

This leads to the slippery slope of baiting readers with tabloid-style “journalism”. If your work is based on enticing a multitude of random eyeballs, touchscreen taps and mouse clicks, the content of the work becomes essentially irrelevant.

By contrast, if the work is measured by readers’ sacrifice of their own funds for it, the measurement is both immediate and clear at all times. Uphold your standards of quality, or quickly see revenues drop.

AltSciFi aims to solve this problem in one (or more) of the following three ways:

1. Use a subscription model.

The example of Netflix shows the power of harnessing paying subscribers to create new, high-quality material. From television to movies, Netflix is changing how media is made.

AltSciFi has aspirations along similar lines, especially for perennial fan favorites like Ghost in the Shell that no Hollywood studio could treat in a faithful way.

2. Sell merchandise that people actually want.

This is self-explanatory. From punk rock shows to the Star Wars saga, giving people tangible goods is a necessary aspect of having a viable brand. In a world of ever-expanding bandwidth, information itself is becoming free whether we like it or not. Physical merchandise needn’t be fancy — it can be anything that serves as a symbol of what it means to be a part of AltSciFi.

3. Take a “public radio” approach.

The American radio network, National Public Radio (NPR), has mastered the art of fundraising. See also Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. Taking donations at regular intervals can create a collaborative sense of “racing to the top” and supporting a good cause.

A Commitment to Authentic Indie Science Fiction Across Media

One of our larger purposes is to do what science fiction is truly and perfectly designed for: to explore human social, economic, technological and political issues through speculative fiction in a variety of media.

The only way to do that is to first uphold and maintain a standard of basic ethics and quality at all times. That, in turn, depends on all of us, both collectively and as individuals, most crucially including you.

Real science fiction pushes boundaries; hence, it is not designed as a mainstream “popcorn” genre. Most Hollywood “sci-fi” movies are simply action films with nifty gadgets attached.

To maintain a commitment to authentic science fiction, then, AltSciFi is not using a typical”clickbait” model to sustain our existence. The three alternatives above will serve as our basic revenue model; they are ethical, transparent, and safeguard everyone’s right to personal identity and data privacy.

Will AltSciFi survive, succeed and thrive in a world of pervasive privacy violation, tawdry gender-baiting, abuse of social issues for monetary gain, and casual disregard for even the most easily-found facts? The only way to find out is to try. If you agree with our purpose, join us in our ongoing adventure to support real science fiction — to imagine and enjoy visions of futures heretofore untold.

Super Metroid’s Samus Aran is [Probably Not] a Secret Transgender Woman. Deal With It.

…or, how ad-click starvation leads to clickbait by writers desperate to stir false-yet-trendy gender controversy.

Writers Brianna Wu and Ellen McGrody recently penned a piece titled, “Metroid’s Samus Aran is a Transgender Woman. Deal With It.

The subject matter of the original article is utterly trivial, although its implications are not: witness an offhand remark made by joke-telling Japanese video game designer Matsuoka Hirofumi in a May 1994 interview for the Super Metroid Strategy Guide.

Secret of Samus that only I know: Samus isn’t a woman. As a matter of fact, she’s actually a shemale.

Why would one, much less two, feminist writers feel the need to tackle and extrapolate on designer Matsuoka Hirofumi’s transphobic comment made over twenty years ago?

What makes this worthy of an article that has become virally popular across the Internet in less than twenty-four hours?

The answer is both sad and simple: transgender people are an easy target for exploitation, both by so-called “allies” and by “enemies”. More controversy means more eyeballs drawn to the article, more links pointing to the article, and ultimately, more ad clicks that generate revenue for the site on which the article has been published.

Was She, or Wasn’t She…?

To settle the matter of whether Samus Aran was actually designed as transgender or not, one point is worth noting: the designer of the character was Yamane Tomoyoshi, not Matsuoka Hirofumi. Matsuoka, then, was not the one to create Samus Aran’s life story.


Matsuoka Hirofumi

Yamane “Tomomi” Tomoyoshi

When you read the interview itself, you can also see that the participants are constantly laughing and joking.

This leads to another point that’s not so humorous, however.

In the time period when Super Metroid was released, transgender people in Japan were considered a sideshow oddity. The person who created the term was herself the proprietor of a gay cabaret-style bar:

The term “New Half” is also of global provenance, according to sociologist Mark McLelland, author most recently of “Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation.”

“It all goes back to the 1950s,” he says, tracing the rise of a gei ba (gay bar) entertainment culture to the early postwar era, and the coinage of the phrase to one such bar in Osaka, Betty’s Mayonnaise, in 1982.

Transgender proprietor Betty borrowed the loanword for mixed-race Japanese, “half,” and pronounced herself, “half man and half woman, therefore ‘New Half’.”

A first-hand account written in 2008 sums up the experiences of transgender women in Japan during the 1990s:

New Halves were very popular in Japan about 10 years ago, often appearing on the awful evening variety shows that take up most of Japanese tv time, and this bar was pretty famous around then, one of the girls we spoke to was on tv quite a lot back then.

She was quite bitter about the experience, as basically they were just on tv to be stared at and mocked – picking the new half out of a line up, etc. etc.

A further pointer to the sexual essence of Samus Aran is that the character was originally conceived as male, but was changed to female “to surprise the player”, as Metroid co-creator Sakamoto Yoshio is quoted as saying:

When we were almost done with the development of Metroid, one of our staffers casually suggested, ‘Why don’t we make Samus Aran a female character to surprise the player?’ Back then I thought it was a nice idea, but I couldn’t foresee what a huge impact this would have on the future of the franchise.

Was that “staffer” Matsuoka Hirofumi? Perhaps. Note that the character was sex-flipped to female, not gender-bent to become a transgender woman.

From Transphobic Joke to Transgender Superheroine?

Given the points above, then, it’s entirely likely that Matsuoka Hirofumi was making a crude-yet-commonplace joke about a character that he played no active part in designing. Samus Aran was not transgender, but rather a sex-flipped male character that was reassigned as female prior to the public release of Super Metroid. Matsuoka’s comment could also be interpreted as a backhanded compliment about Samus Aran as a strong female character — that to be so strong, she had to “be a man in disguise”.

Now, you might be thinking, “why on Earth would two feminist, apparently gay-friendly female (women) writers think that this was a worthwhile topic to discuss in such glowingly incorrect terms?”

Well, dear reader, that is the true purpose of this two-article series, so be sure to come back for the conclusion.

Update: Click here for Part Two (click here).

Science Fiction as a Journey of Gender and Sexual Identity: Conversation with Author K.M. Szpara

A conversation between K.M. Szpara, Sunny Morraine and others.

Published author K.M. Szpara offers a personal account of becoming a science fiction writer, and how doing so is inextricable from an ongoing journey of gender and sexual identity. Szpara’s thoughts spurred a larger conversation that is included below.

The text in this entry is adaped from “The Importance of Trans People In Narrative” by A. Merc Rustad and has been lightly edited for clarity.

K.M. Szpara is the author of “Nothing is Pixels Here”, published in June 2015 (Issue 61), Lightspeed Magazine.

In response to the article “Why We Need Trans Romance” by E.E. Ottoman, K.M. Szpara (@KMSzpara) writes:

I want to speak more to how important this is. I’m a gay transmale [female-to-male] SFF writer who is heavy on [writing] romance and erotica. For a long time growing up, I read m/m [male/male] romance where I could find it (mostly fanfic and Anne Rice book — thanks, Anne!).

I didn’t yet understand what that meant for me. I started writing m/m. I knew that was how I processed love, too. I remember discovering I didn’t have all the parts to make sex happen for me the way I wanted it — jarring but not the end.

I continued writing all male protagonists because that was the headspace I enjoyed.

Even more so from a first-person POV. I got to “be there” in my fiction, [but] still didn’t even realize people could transition [from one gender to another] because I had no idea what transgender was at that point. Once I did and decided to transition socially and medically, I was told by JHU doctors no gay men would want to sleep with me.

“Who would date you?”, was the question I got from everyone.

It’s hard to be 100% confident about medically transitioning because some of the changes are permanent and you’re told you will BE WEIRD… but I did it anyway. All this time I continued writing cis m/m characters because that’s how I saw myself.

That’s how I wish I’d been born.

I already have body issues so please, everyone else, emphasize my worries of never being loved or having sex with a caring person again [1].

This year I wrote my first transgender character. It was published and I had a ducking hard time doing that. I had to re-find myself as “sexy” and — **spoilers** there is no transgender sex in the story but **end spoilers** — BUT! I am finally ready to write one, an erotic cis/trans science fiction/fantasy story.

It has taken me years, and I’m still nervous no one will buy it for their m/m anthology.

“Do you accept transmen?” If ‘yes’, do they really?

The moral of this story is, I feel bad writing cis and/or wanting to be cis because I also want people to honor transgender bodies. If you want to help and are an editor/agent/respected writer, make it explicitly known that you accept and desire transgender bodies in the writing you seek.

Enable us.

Sunny Moraine (@dynamicsymmetry) responds:
Something pretty gross that happened a while back was a major M/M review site rejecting reviewing books that featured explicit sex scenes along those lines because of genitalia.

Got called the FUCK out but it was a major look at transphobia in the genre.

K.M. Szpara (@KMSzpara)
:( THIS SHIT. I keep considering querying in advance: do you accept transgender characters? But I probably shouldn’t. I should just bombard the fuck out of the market.

Now if I could just write faster… Lol

Sunny Moraine
Yeah, I feel like the best response to that is to write the hell out of it. So go you. :D

Benjanun Sriduangkaew (@benjanun_s)
Huge difference between stating that they seek that writing versus actually, well, publishing it though. :/

A. Merc Rustad (@Merc_Rustad)
Agreed, the follow-through on PUBLISHING is a big step that needs to happen.

no ordinary fishtrap (@afishtrap)
Really, multiple gateways need to get on the ball: agent, editor, distributors, bookstores, and customers.

The problem is that it ends up being a massive multi-gate disconnect, because readers want/need it, absolutely. The only way to overcome each gateway in turn is if stories exist. :)

K.M. Szpara
True. And if we self-reject first because we’re not “invited”, then we’ll never know. I think transgender people self-reject a LOT because others don’t even think to include us, and we know it.

A. Merc Rustad
I’m plotting a novel now, which has a transgender guy as the main character, and I want to add explicit sex scenes when he dates other guys, for that reason. I want it to be very positive, because I CRAVE positive portrayals and need to see them in fiction.

K.M. Szpara
YES YES YES PLS. Would read. The only thing I ever run into is what transgenderism looks like outside the modern medical and social system. You have to get creative; can’t just have a person with a flat chest, and vagina, and be like “they’re trans!” Because it’s also a social, internal and sometimes medical experience/personal history. Creative! Writing! SFF! Lol

A. Merc Rustad
We need ALL THE STORIES in ALL THE GENRES with many types of transgender experience and positivity about transgender people and bodies.

Further Reading:

Rustad, A. Merc. (2015, August 13). The Importance of Trans People In Narrative. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://storify.com/Merc_Rustad/the-importance-of-trans-people-in-narrative.

Queer Dictionary. [n.d.] Cisgender (adj.). [Web page]. Retrieved from http://queerdictionary.tumblr.com/post/9264228131/cisgender-adj.

Szpara, K.M. (2015, June). Nothing is Pixels Here [Short story]. Retrieved from http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/nothing-is-pixels-here/.

Ottoman, E.E. (2014, October 31). Why We Need Trans Romance. [Personal account]. Retrieved from http://www.queerromancemonth.com/ee-ottoman/.

A Story Waiting to Be Written: Tyga, Mia Isabella, Kylie Jenner and Private Information Warfare

Fascinating to see NSA-style information warfare tactics adopted by Twitter users yesterday… or perhaps the NSA was inspired by Twitter. In any case, the events had the flavor of a sci-fi espionage story, and could definitely become such a story with the proper coaxing.

You may have heard about a recent cyberattack against the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM). With suspected origins in China, the unprecedented hack affects up to seven percent of the American population. Stolen data includes:

“…drug use, romantic histories and close friends abroad of those in the military, National Security Agency (NSA) and sensitive State Department posts, among many others, essentially a road map for what weaknesses might be used for blackmail by a foreign power.”

The NSA isn’t the only one with skin in this spy game. It’s a well-known infowar tactic to ruin radical Muslim clerics’ reputations by exposing their online porn browsing habits to faithful congregations. Extremist Islam doesn’t take kindly to pornography, it seems.

Enter the Tyga

Likewise, despite recent flag-waving to the contrary, much of Twitter openly endorses homophobia while apparently excusing pedophilia, or at the very least, statutory rape.

Trending on Twitter yesterday was an entertainer’s stage name: “Tyga”. Tyga, age 25, is a rapper by the name of Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson. He became hashtag fodder for allegedly cheating on his 17-year-old girlfriend Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) with transgender pornstar Mia Isabella (@THEMiaIsabella).

Note that Mia Isabella also has an Instagram account:
https://instagram.com/themiaisabella/

All of this is publicly available and accessible data about well-known individuals. None of this data is private.

Here’s where the interesting part begins.

On Twitter, thousands of tweets poured in every hour about the discovery that Tyga had maintained a secret three-year relationship with Mia Isabella. The mainstream entertainment media ran wild with the story as well, repeating the same facts. It all relied on the publication of intimate cellphone photos displaying Tyga’s tattooed nether regions. The photos were mixed in with screenshots of texts between a phone number that may have been his, and a phone number that appeared to belong to Mia Isabella.

Twitter users raged and ridiculed, cackled and heckled, predicting the demise of both Tyga the rapper and Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson the human being. As is sadistically commonplace on the Internet, calls came forward, then were retweeted and reposted, requesting none too politely for him to disappear and/or commit suicide.

No big deal, right? Rappers exist as hypermasculine caricatures, anyway, right? If you call a rapper a “faggot” — much less provide evidence — his career as a lyric-slinging tough guy is as good as finished.

That seems to have been exactly the intention of whoever was behind the scandal. The question of where the nude pictures and sexy texts came from is made almost irrelevant by the human element at play.

Two minutes of searching the Internet revealed that Mia Isabella’s alleged Instagram account was not, in fact, owned by Mia Isabella at all. The trick was that the fake account took the username “therealmiaisabella”. Do you remember what the actual account was named? Probably not (hint: look above to refresh your memory). It would be easy to believe that the word “real” was, well, real.

Meanwhile, Ms. Isabella’s actual, easily-found Twitter and Instagram accounts make absolutely no mention of Tyga whatsoever.

This means that someone:

– “borrowed” Mia Isabella’s identity and a few photos of her;
– most likely hacked Tyga’s phone to obtain the nude images of him;
and
– created a fake Instagram account to closely mimic Ms. Isabella.

The aspect of this that falls into the category of “information warfare” is the exploitation of Twitter users’ gullibility and homophobia. Less than one in every hundred tweets on the topic contained mention of the fact that Mia Isabella wasn’t the owner of the faked Instagram account. In their haste to digitally crucify Tyga, practically no one bothered to check.

Even more cunning is the timing involved: Tyga just released an album that sold quite poorly, damaging his reputation. The fake Mia Isabella therefore timed her attack for maximum damage to an already-tarnished public image. Fake Mia even upped the ante by claiming to have video of her having “gay” sex with Tyga. The video, warned Fake Mia, would be posted at 12am unless Tyga paid her a suitable fee for services rendered. An explicit photo offered as proof was quickly debunked as belonging to a completely different person who bore no resemblance to Tyga aside from skin tone. Still, the Twitter Hate Parade continued unabated as frenzied users counted the minutes until midnight.

Predictably, no incriminating video ever turned up on Fake Mia’s Instagram.

A day later, people are still dragging Tyga’s name through the trashbin of Twitter. The Tyga-trashing tweets, at last count, were being written at a rate of 38 per minute.

Who’s blackmailing Tyga? That is still unknown, although he has sought legal representation and the help of the FBI. More importantly, this story is worthy of a science fiction plot due to how Twitter’s users were unwittingly recruited to destroy Tyga’s reputation. Relatively little work was required on the part of the attacker. Every Twitter user who posted bullying and homophobic tweets is complicit in the defamation and blackmail of a celebrity. Not only that, they also implicitly condone sexual relationships with underaged children, in this case teenaged Kylie Jenner.

It’s a story where the only moral agent is the person who takes a moment to seek facts before jumping to judgment. In this case, the battleground was Twitter and the victim was a not-so-innocent rapper. In the near future, such diabolically methodical information warfare tactics could be just one hacked selfie or stolen text away from destroying the reputation of any private citizen.

That’s a science fiction story worth writing, hopefully before it comes true in real life.

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P.S. In fact, I’ve already come up with a title: this story (or the set of social engineering tactics it circumscribes) could be called “Shadow Punch”.